Solar photovoltaic (PV) company SunPower recently inaugurated its first high-volume manufacturing plant, drastically boosting the company’s total yearly average production by 25 MW.Sunnyvale, California – March 18, 2004 [SolarAccess.com] SunPower Philippines Manufacturing Limited (SPML), located near Manila, is the first semiconductor fabrication facility in the Philippines and the first large-scale solar cell facility in Southeast Asia, according to the company. The plant will initially turn out 25 MW per year of silicon solar cells to meet the increasing worldwide demand for solar electric power systems. At this production rate, SPML will employ approximately 200 people. The SPML building footprint is designed to allow future capacity expansion to more than 100 MW. SunPower currently operates a 4” silicon wafer fabrication facility in Sunnyvale, California to support its concentrator cell and opto product lines. The company also operates a 2 MW pilot line, home of the A-300 solar cell in Round Rock, Texas. This plant is co-located with Cypress Semiconductor’s manufacturing facility. The inauguration ceremony for the new facility included presentations by the president of the Philippines, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Cypress CEO T.J. Rodgers — both of whom provided key support for the development, approval, financing and construction of SPML. “The benefits of operating in the Philippines are significant,” said SunPower Chief Executive Officer Tom Werner. “We value the country’s highly-educated workforce, the proximity to key markets, and their rapidly improving infrastructure; we believe that solar is a particularly appropriate technology in rural areas and developing countries lacking large-scale power grids.” SunPower, which has produced solar cells for a broad range of high-profile projects – including the NASA Helios solar-powered aircraft, which flew to a record altitude of 96,863 feet – recently sampled its first high-volume product, the A-300. The company A-300 solar cell was recently measured at 21.5 percent efficiency – a world record – by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, a laboratory used by the Department of Energy to handle research on renewable energy. SunPower also manufactures a 22 percent efficient solar cell called Pegasus, which they said is the highest-efficiency non-concentrating silicon solar cell commercially available. An early application for the lightweight Pegasus solar cell was a high-altitude solar-powered aircraft. Pilotless solar-powered airplanes and blimps, which are nearing commercialization, can stay at a set altitude indefinitely and serve as telecommunications platforms over populated areas.